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News & Updates

Malawi Trip, Entry 5

› Posted July 22, 2010

July 15th -17th | Little Field Orphanage (Chigamba Village near Nyenje Trading Centre), to Lilongwe, to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The hearing clinic at the Little Field Orphanage was well received by the villagers (morning) and all the orphans were tested in the afternoon. The villagers crowded around the building where we slept and used for the clinic. The structure had been used as a medical clinic in the past but for some reason it is not in use at tis time. Word had spread in the village and many thought medications would be dispensed.

The audiology team members found numerous cases of ear infections that needed to be treated medically and others who were fully deaf. At 11:00 we made an announcement that the testing of villagers would end at noon but when that time came, we had to have the team disappear into the back room in order to convince the villagers there would be no more testing. They would have stayed into the night and yet the team members needed to rest and eat before they resumed testing with the orphans. As it was, a few villagers hung around and even protested.

That afternoon, as the orphans were being tested, Clarice and I took a walk down the dirt road toward a lake. A man on a bicycle came along just as we started and he dismounted in order to walk along with us. Soon he asked if we were husband and wife and when we said,“Yes” he immediately expressed surprise. Although we know that it is not customary for married couples to walk along the road together, we had not, in the past, experienced such a surprised reaction to our doing so. He repeated the verbal expression of his surprise and, on my prompting, shared it with three women who were walking along the road in the opposite direction.

They appeared to be coming back from the fields as one carried a long blade tool that resembles a machete, while the other a type of hoe. The one with the blade assumed a stance, with the tool across her chest, in what seemed a humorous defense of the tradition that disallows women to walk with their husbands. A man, who is a teacher at the orphanage, came by on his bicycle and joined the conversation and, he too, shared that such a practice, “… cannot be done.” Little else was discussed as the issue remained their focus of attention until we stopped to turn around. Only then did the first man say that we had taught them something and he wanted for us to come to his home to meet his family.

We were not prepared to continue our walk as we had already walked for quite some time, so declined and headed back. As we did, two young girls, carrying large bowls of flour on their heads, passed us and never stopped even though they passed other children who asked to have their pictures taken.

The hearing clinic had finished by the time we returned so we sat and talked with on of the Malawians who had helped with translations. Solomon is a student at the University of Maine and has been financially assisted by a woman benefactor he happened to meet a few years ago. When asked about his future intention, Solomon was clear that he wanted to return to become an educator. He was interested in our other projects so we showed the video of the well repair and then the recently developed hand cycle for which he was impressed.

The next morning, Janet Littlefield came to see us as she had not been there for the hearing clinic. She and Bill had driven to Lilongwe to drop someone off at the airport and he went on to Ntchisi Forest Lodge in order to see for himself what the place looked like.

After saying good bye, we headed back toward Lilongwe. When we reached the Shire River, I stopped at the Hippo View Hotel, which was familiar to us from a trip in 2004. Although we had not stayed there, it was a nice place to view the river. Even though we did not see hippos, we did hear them from across the river.

We stopped at the Dedza Pottery Factory for lunch—another location that was familiar from previous trips—and enjoyed the break before getting back on the road for the final leg. We arrived in Lilongwe in time to go directly to the bureau of exchange to get more money and then stop to see Mcdonald Ganisyeje at Land and Lake. He had heard from our clearing agent to say the shipment of medical devices had arrived and I had to go immediately to the airport to pick them up. So we headed to the Golden Peacock to unload before Kyle and I drove to the airport.

Mathews was waiting for us and we quickly loaded the largest box onto the top carrier. It was so large that it barely fit, while the next largest had to be pushed into the back of the Land Cruiser. I paid the duty, and Mathews fee of MK 20,000 then found that our vehicle would not start. One of the workers twisted the terminal and that was enough to re-establish the connection—something I should have thought of—and we were on our way.

We stopped to buy some beer and then returned to the Golden Peacock for dinner. Afterward, we unloaded the boxes and separated the devices so the one destined for Zambia was ready for the next day’s trip. There were bags of cereal and children’s backpacks that had been added to the shipment by Vin Pizziconi and I shared some of the cereal with the Golden Peacock workers who had helped unload the boxes. I also gave a backpack and cereal to Suleman for his young daughter and son.

After a special breakfast at the café in front of Land and Lake Safari, we loaded the trailer, to include Anastasia’s hand cycle, and climbed into the 9 passenger Land Cruiser for our day’s drive to the village of Mfuwe, and the Zambian, South Luangwa National Park. The drive takes most of a day as we must pass through customs at the border, pay USD $50 to enter Zambia, and once past the first major town (Chipata), the road is dirt.

We arrived in the afternoon and were met by one of the greeters who gave a short welcome and talk about safety issues (don’t walk about at night as elephants, leopards, and other animals pass through the camp) and scheduling for the meals and safari rides. Hippos come up on shore so the trail that leads from the camp to the dining area cannot be used after dark. There was a great degree of excitement amongst our group as even then we began to see animals in the wild, along the Luangwa River, they had only seen on TV or in zoos.

We settled into our cabin-tents, enjoyed the sunset, sounds and sights along the river, and waited until the driver brought the specially outfitted, open aired, Land Rover to drive us to the dining area for dinner. Afterward, we returned and headed for bed as the next morning’s wake-up would be early with a 6:00 AM departure for our first of four safari rides.